Ben and Leah Mee own and manage Southern Alps Honey.
Ben was brought up on a sheep, beef and deer farm in the Rakaia Gorge, Mid Canterbury. When old enough, he worked for neighbouring helicopter pilot Bondy (Allan Bond), and always had a fascination for flying helicopters. Ben went on to work for various companies flying in New Zealand, Indonesia and Australia. Ben’s interest in bees had also started as a small child and he would read books on beekeeping when he was away on flying jobs.
Leah also grew up on a sheep and beef farm, but in South Otago. She trained as a nurse at the Southern Institute of Technology, Invercargill and after graduation worked in Melbourne and Perth.
With a rural background in common, Ben and Leah knew they wanted to return to New Zealand to bring up their children. They were both keen to work outdoors and be close to the mountains. The decision had to be made on whether to carry on with a career in flying or to try something completely new; beekeeping. With a young family, Ben didn’t want to be away for long periods at a time so starting their own business made sense.
Ben and Leah are grateful to have John Syme, a third generation bee keeper, mentoring and helping them on all aspects of beekeeping from queen rearing, hive management, local climate knowledge and all things bees.
Hives are located on the south side of the Rakaia Gorge in alpine and sub alpine areas where the bees produce clover honey, and along the foothills from Mount Hutt to Staveley. Black Beech trees on the foothills allow the bees to produce honeydew honey. These areas are away from intensive farming practices where a lot of sprays and agrichemicals are used.
Southern Alps Honey is a relatively new company but Ben and Leah are focused to grow Southern Alps Honey Limited to supply local markets with the best quality, natural honey that the bees can produce.
Processing Honey and Honey Types
Ben and Leah closely monitor all aspects of honey production and processing as they are involved in every step of the business, from beekeeping, hive health, extracting, processing, packaging and distribution of the honey.
The honey extraction and processing plant is state of the art and a RMP registered and certified facility. They maintain and follow legislative requirements, Health and Safety programs, Food Safety and Risk Management programs.
After the honey has been harvested from the hives, it is brought to the honey shed where it will be extracted from the honeycomb within the frames. It is a simple operation that does not over-process, over-stir or over-heat the honey.
These pure, natural alpine honeys are produced from sustainable apiaries away from intensive farming practices.
Each hive is strategically positioned to cause minimal disturbance to the land and bees have access to fresh water, plenty of pollen and a nectar source.
With a state of the art monitoring system there are GPS co-ordinates of every hive using RFID ( Radio Frequency Identification ) tags which keep track of honey from the specific hive site in which it was produced, to the pottle of honey in your kitchen cupboard. For more information on the tracking system, visit http://www.hivetech.nz.
In early spring, some of the bees are moved back to the clover sites in the Rakaia Gorge, while others are kept on the bush to collect Honeydew. This is where they will stay through to the end of summer to gather the sweet liquid that we call Southern Alps Honey.
Every year after the honey has been harvested, bees are bought back to the Beech forest to be wintered down. This allows the bees to gather honey stores for the winter, reducing the need to feed them sugar syrup.
We are passionate about caring for our bees and making sure they have what they need to raise sustainable hives.